Interview: TV News Reporter – Jon Swaner WTHI-TV

jon s Photo Credit: Linked in: Jon Swaner 

We not aware how much work goes on behind the scenes of a news cast. We may watch the news and not think about how much work had to be done to produce a show. I had the opportunity to get his advice and a day in the life from a professional, Jon Swaner.

  • What’s a typical week like for you?

My primary duties include reporting Monday through Friday while also anchoring our 7 p.m. newscast on our Fox station. So, my set schedule is 11-8 M-F. However, it’s common for me to come in as early as 9 a.m. to actually get some housekeeping done, and it’s common for me to stay beyond 8 p.m. to tie up loose ends.
I’ll turn a package per day, although that’s essentially changed just this week to two pkg’s per day. New company, new expectations. I shoot for myself, and we also began shooting our own live shots. So this means we have to cram a lot of work in 8 short hours. It goes by quickly! I will travel about a day a week to another county in the viewing area to turn a story. And I’ll check in with courts often, although we are thankfully able to do this from our computers.
Long story short… I work a lot of hours and they are action-packed hours.
  • Tell me about a project you worked on that you are especially proud of.

I’m especially proud of my coverage of my trip to Rome. We covered the canonization of St. Theodora Guerin back in October of 2006. I turned 5 preview packages previewing the canonization, and then I turned 5 packages of the events leading up to the canonization. I also turned 3 packages giving our viewers a “tour” of Rome. Web coverage was just beginning to “be a thing” in our business. I wrote my first blog, chronicling our adventures on the trip. This was especially interesting because the blog told the “back story” of this trip. We worked incredibly long hours, which means a lot of naps on busses as we went to and from events.
I’m most proud of this because this trip was all me and my wife crafting our coverage thousands of miles from home. We had limited resources and little support from the station back home. We had to navigate a foreign country while covering a major event. But we made it so much more than just the event. We made it an adventure. And the stories we turned as some of the best I’ve ever done.  
  • What do you do to keep current in the broadcasting industry?

My motto for this industry is “adapt or die.” I read up on everything industry related. Thankfully, Twitter puts it all in one convenient spot. I’m able to follow numerous media outlets and personalities. My company also sends consultants to us once per quarter. They help us adapt what we’re doing to the changes happening in the industry. I’m also very open to learning more about the new technologies that’s coming out. That tech has made my job easier, to be honest. The other thing that’s helped me stay “young” in the industry is I haven’t lost my passion for the job. If you really love this industry, it’s constant changing never gets old to you.
  • What do you wish you would have known before starting your career?
I wish I would have known that I had it in me from the very beginning of my career to be especially good and successful in this industry. I totally sold myself short in many aspects of my career, and it was due to not dreaming big enough.
  • How important is writing in your career?
Writing is everything. If you can’t write well, you can’t be in this industry. It’s that simple.
  • What three tips would you offer someone just starting out in broadcasting?
If you’re in this business, you should be inquisitive in nature. From day one, start picking the brains of every single person you work with, regardless of whether you like them or not, or think they are good or not. There’s something to be learned from everyone. Now, you may learn what ‘not ‘ to do, but that’s just as important as what you ‘should’ do. Be a sponge. Soak in everything you can from your more experienced co-workers, because what will happen is you’ll take nuggets from each of them and craft them into your own style. And never stop doing this. Again, adapt or die.
Dream big, but stay humble. Never forget where you came from, because that’s what’s helped you become the person you are today. That said, never sell yourself short.
Learn as much as you can as early as you can, and do it with humility. The direction of this industry is quite clear: be a jack-of-all trades. And quite frankly, your bosses will want you to master them, too. Also, remember you’re never above anything. Specifically in the tv news world, you’re not above shooting and editing your own video, you’re not above the mundane stories, you’re not above any person you encounter in the field, and you’re never above learning. Humility is lost in this industry, but it’s the one sign of true character that will carry you the furthest. Vanity comes with the territory, and you must have that, too.  But balance that with being humble: treat everyone with the same respect, be kind, and be graceful. This industry will challenge you in all three aspects.




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